ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Addiction is a complex, chronic brain disease that can be treated using acupressure. How does this alternative medicine help people who struggle with substance use disorders? We review here.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Addiction And Brain Changes
- Who is Affected
- Is Treatment Possible?
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine
- What Is Acupressure?
- How Does Acupressure Work?
- Basic Acupuncture Points for Addiction
- More Info
- Your Questions
Addiction And Brain Changes
Before we jump in, it will be helpful to define just what addiction is. We like to use the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) definition for addiction. NIDA defines addiction as:
A chronic, relapsing disease characterized by compulsive drug use despite negative consequences and changes in the brain.
Usually, psychoactive and addiction substances affect the brain area responsible for rewards causing dopamine release. Since dopamine release causes pleasure and euphoria, most of use want to feel good over and over again. But with repetiton, a habit develops. And as we use a substance over and over again, we reinforce certain pathways in the brain, leaving other pathways to atrophy.
Additionally, the brain adjusts to chemicals over time. After a period of substance use, the brain gets used to the presence of the drug as normal. So, when you try to quit drinking or using your drug-of-choice after you are drug-dependent, your body will experience withdrawal symptoms. In fact, drug dependence is the brain and body’s attempt to keep ‘balanced’. In this way, substance use hijacks your brain and changes its function.
Who is Affected
Addiction is America’s #1 health and social issue. In fact, addiction is a worlwide issue! It is estimated that 8-13% of people who live in developed countries experience some sort of addiction (food, gaming, alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc) Not suprisingly, in 2010 the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 5.4% of the worldwide population deals with alcohol and/or illicit drug use.
In the U.S. the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health of 2016 found that 22.5 million people aged 12 or older had substance use problems. Specifically,
- 15.1 million Americans aged 12 or older could be diagnosed with a drinking problem.
- 7.4 million Americans aged 12 or older could be diagnosed with a drug problem.
Moreover, this report shows that in 2016 there were 64,000 deaths due to drug overdose.
The stats are alarming!
Is Treatment Possible?
So, can you break free from addiction? YES! Addiction can be treated.
Treatment helps individuals with substance use disorders stop their drug seeking and start living a substance-free life. There are plenty evidence-based treatment approaches that occurred in many settings, taking variety of forms and lasting differently that can help you bit addiction.
You are not alone in your search for help. SAMHSA reported in 2016 that 1 in 13 people aged 12+ need substance use treatment. This means that about 21 million people are in need of addiction treatment.
- 1.1 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 need addiction help.
- 5.3 million young adults aged 18 to 25 need addiction help.
- 14.5 million adults aged 26 or older need addiction help.
So why wait?
If you’re ready to reach out, addiction professionals can help you find the best program for you.
But we’re assuming that you found this post because you’re interested in alternative options. Can acupressure really be effective in treating addiction? Should you try it on your own?
Complementary and Alternative Option
Most people who struggle with addiction receive addiction treatment that include:
- Medical detox.
- Pharmacotherapy, or medications.
- Psychological treatment or talk therapy.
- A combination of the above.
However, addiction is a complex, chronic disease that may include periods of relapse and recovery. Because of this, the best treatment is the one that is tailored by individual’s needs.
In 1998, the Drug Commission of the German Medical Association published an opinion for evaluating methods of treatment “outside scientific medicine”. Since then, the topic on complementary and alternative medicine has become more important.
In some cases, people with substance use disorders require alternative and complementary strategies to secure and boost their recovery. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies are available for people who search new ways to treat addiction. According to expert Ernst E. Komplementärmedizin , currently there are about 400 CAM procedures and practices. CAM are divided into two categories:
That includes foods and supplemental of a natural origin such as:
- Special diets.
Mind and body practices
That includes techniques conducted by a trained practitioner to achieve certain goal:
- Art therapies.
- Massage therapy.
- Relaxation techniques.
If you like to learn more about CAM, visit this website.
What Is Acupressure?
Acupressure is an extended acupuncture method that, instead of needles involves finger pressure. Originating in ancient China, acupressure is a based on the principal of acupoint activation. It uses the fingers to gradually press key points on the body to stimulate its natural self-curative abilities.
How Does Acupressure Work?
Basically, there are two main principles in acupressure. You reinforce a pressure point to bring energy to it, or you reduce a pressure point to remove energy blocks. You can reinforce and reduce the same acupressure points to both bring energy and remove energy blockage. They don’t cancel each other out.
To reduce an acupressure point, continually press and move your index finger in a counterclockwise circles on the point, another finger can be used if you get tired. To reinforce a pressure point, you can apply firm pressure using your fingers, palms, or knuckles to a pressure point for one to several minutes. Or, you can rub the pressure point vigorously to increase circulation to the area. You can also try to quick tap a pressure point with your fingertips or fist to stimulate the muscles. To get a full effect, apply pressure for at least 30 seconds; preferably 1-2 minutes is best.
There are several ways to perform acupressure, and you’ll need to try different methods to discover what feels best to you. Acupuncture points are about 0.5 mm diameter, so you’ll have to be precise if you want good effect. If your fingers or hands get tired while trying to apply acupressure, you can use a prop like a the rubber eraser of a pencil, a golf ball or a blunt object that is at least 3-4 mm thick.
Basic Acupuncture Points for Addiction
- Anxiety: 16, 19, 36, 40, 43
- Common Cold: 4, 17, 52, 59
- Fatigue: 24, 31, 36, 59
- Greater body efficiency: 36, 45, 56
- Headache – general: 1, 50, 58, 59
- Headache – forehead: 1, 59
- Headache – top of head: 42, 49
- Headache – temples: 2, 58
- Headache – back of head: 42, 50
- Insomnia: 16, 19, 40, 43, 55
- Stress & emotional imbalance: 16, 19, 20, 36, 40, 55
- Quit smoking: 5, 17, 20, 36, 45
- Quit drinking alcohol: 4, 16, 19, 36,
This study published in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine reports positive response to the specific acupressure treatment on psychological distress, cravings, and drug/alcohol use measures. However, there is still need of evidence to support not only the efficacy of acupressure, but for almost all forms of CAM.
Many individuals in recovery provide personal experience and claims of the benefits they got from different CAM approaches. But, if some therapy works for them, it doesn’t mean that it will work for you. Keep in mind that you need to be cautious with beginning any new treatment, especially if there is no FDA approval for them.
You can always take these steps into account when looking for CAM:
- Find reliable information (government websites, journal articles, or local library)
- Ask your current addiction treatment providers.
- Choose CAM practitioners that are trained, certified, and experienced.
- Choose CAM therapies that are proven safe and effective in treatment of addiction.
Where to Seek More Info
So, if you want to seek professional help and see an acupuncturist, where do you go? Selecting an acupunturist is like choosing any doctor or other health professional. Look for someone you trust and who understands your personal needs.
Further, you need to be sure that the acupuncturist is licensed. Look to your state’s department of health board for verification. You can see if the acupuncturist is licensed and in good standing by contacting your State Board of Examiners or Bureau of Professional Licensing. You can also search for recommended member listing through the:
- American Academy of Medical Acupuncture AAMA
- National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine NCCAOM
- American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine AAAOM
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Reference souses: NCBI: Efficacy of auricular acupressure as an adjuvant therapy in substance abuse treatment: a pilot study.
NCBI: Contemporary acupressure therapy: Adroit cure for painless recovery of therapeutic ailments
NCBI: Acupuncture therapy for drug addiction https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4822281/
NCBI: Effect of self-administered auricular acupressure on smoking cessation –a pilot study
NIH: Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide
NIH: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.